Nature is not something
out there, apart from people.
It never was, and nowadays people have built and farmed and clearcut
so much that wildlife species from insects to birds are in trouble.
In south Georgia people may think that our trees make a lot of wildlife habitat.
Actually, most of those trees are planted pine plantations with
very limited undergrowth, and in town many yards are deserts of grass
plus exotic species that don't support native birds.
Douglas Tallamy offers one solution:
turn yards into wildlife habitat by growing native species.
Since we are as always remodeling nature, we might as well do it
so as to feed the rest of nature and ourselves,
and by the way get flood prevention and possibly cleaner water as well,
oh, and fewer pesticides to poison ourselves.
...it is not yet too late to save most of the plants and animals
that sustain the ecosystems on which we ourselves depend.
Second, restoring native plants to most human-dominated landscapes
is relatively easy to do.
Some of you may wonder why native species are so important?
Don't we have more deer than we can shoot?
Maybe so, but we have far fewer birds of almost every species
than we did decades and only a few years ago.
Some may wonder: aren't exotic species just as good as native ones,
if deer and birds can eat them?
Actually, no, because many exotic species are poisonous
to native wildlife, and because invasive exotics crowd out natives
and reduce species diversity.
From kudzu to
Japanese climbing fern, exotic invasives are bad for wildlife
and may also promote erosion and flooding by strangling native vegetation.
All plants are not created equal, particularly in their ability to support wildlife.
Most of our native plant-eaters are not able to eat alien plants,
and we are replacing native plants with alien species at an alarming rate,
especially in the suburban gardens on which our wildlife increasingly depends.
My central message is that unless we restore native plants to our
the future of biodiversity in the United States is dim.
Tallamy had an epiphany when he and his wife moved to 10 acres
in Pennsylvania in 2000:
Higher average temperatures
mean much more frequent droughts and trees dying faster in droughts
because of the temperatures.
That plus pine beetles, according to research from 2009.
Forestry is Georgia's second largest industry
in terms of
employment and wages and salaries,
more than $28 billion a year
according to the Georgia Forestry Commission,
plus an estimated
$36 billion a year in ecosystem services
such as water filtration, carbon storage, wildlife habitat, and aesthetics,
not to mention hunting and fishing.
Climate change matters to Georgia's forests and to Georgia.
All drought trees in the warmer treatment died before any of the drought
trees in the ambient treatment (on average 18.0 vs. 25.1 weeks, P <0.01;
They say warmer trees dying faster in drought
wasn't due to a difference in amount of water.
Instead, they infer the warmer trees couldn't breathe.
Combined, our results provide experimental evidence that piñon
pines attempted to avoid drought-induced mortality by regulating
stomata and foregoing further photosynthesis but subsequently
succumbed to drought due to carbon starvation, not sudden hydraulic
failure. Importantly, we isolate the effect of temperature from
other climate variables and biotic agents
and show that the effect
of warmer temperature in conjunction with drought can be
Our results imply that future warmer temperatures will not only
increase background rates of tree mortality (13, 16), but also
result in more frequent widespread vegetation die-off events (3, 35)
through an exacerbation of metabolic stress associated with drought.
With warmer temperatures, droughts of shorter duration—which
occur more frequently—would be sufficient to cause widespread
How much more frequently?
They calculated an estimate for that, too: five times more frequently.
Of course, that's for the specific kinds of forests they were studying,
and the exact number may vary, but the general trend is clear:
higher temperatures mean more frequent droughts,
the year-long drought we just experienced in south Georgia.
This projection is conservative because it is based on the
historical drought record and therefore does not include changes in
drought frequency, which is predicted to increase concurrently with
warming (2, 37—39). In addition, populations of tree pests,
such as bark beetles, which are often the proximal cause of
mortality in this species and others, are also expected to increase
with future warming (7, 9, 38).
Bark beetles, such as the ones that bored into this 19 inch slash pine
and spread from there to twenty others I had to cut down to prevent further spread
of the pine beetles.
What happens when pine beetles spread
is what you see in the
first picture in this post:
acres and acres of dead red pine trees.
Monoculture slash pine plantations may show this effect most clearly,
but look around here, and you'll see red dead loblolly and longleaf pines,
The article is saying that if the beetles don't get the trees
weakened by droughts that will be much more frequent,
the trees will die more quickly of suffocation,
because the temperature is higher.
Higher temperatures is something that should concern every Georgian
in our state where forestry is the second largest industry and our forests
protect our wildlife and the air that we breathe and the water that we drink.
The head of Rayonier acknowledged Monday that there are problems
with the water it discharges into the Altamaha River at its paper
mill near Jesup but said the company is ahead of schedule on
cleaning it up.
The Georgia Water Coalition on Saturday ranked a stretch of river in
the vicinity of the mill second on its “Dirty Dozen,” a
list of the state's most polluted or otherwise damaged rivers,
streams, wetlands and marshes.
“We are very committed to the water quality of the Altamaha
River,” Rayonier Chairman and CEO Lee Thomas said. “It's
important to us, just as it is important to the people of southeast
Georgia. We're working hard to improve the discharge.”
A couple of French botanists came by to catalog our yellow jessamine.
They want some for medicinal purposes.
Up in North Carolina they heard it grew hereabouts and drove down.
Contacting the Chamber, they were told Gretchen had some.
She was in Valdosta and sent them out.
I gave them a tour, including use of digging implements.
Pictures by John S. Quarterman for Okra Paradise Farms, Lowndes County, Georgia, 22 August 2012.